The Problems with Police

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Contrary to what some people believe, I don't hate police, but I do believe that individuals employed as police officers routinely engage in immoral behavior and thus I find it unwise to trust them or to consider them allies. The following are four ways in which the actions of police officers constitute immoral choices.

  1. Police initiate force against others. When I say that police initiate force against others, I don't just mean that police use force, I mean that the police are the only ones using force. When a police officer hurts a person who has not already hurt someone else, the officer is guilty of initiating force. (By "hurt" I mean that the officer uses or threatens to use physical force in order to compel compliance or to take someone's property.) In almost all cases, the enforcement of drug laws, gun possession laws, vice laws, and traffic laws (unless there has been an incident involving injury or property damage) constitutes the initiation of force against someone who has not harmed anyone else. While the apologist will argue that the officers are "just doing their job" and that "they don't make the laws, they just enforce them," the fact remains that the initiation of force is always wrong. The apologists' arguments apply equally to the enforcers under communism, Nazism, and dictatorships, by the way, so they're not very compelling arguments anyway.
  1. Police use excessive force. Even in cases where the police are not guilty of initiating force (because the subject has in fact already caused harm to another person), the police often use more force than is necessary to deal with the situation. Killing someone for trying to run away or slamming their head into the concrete for trying to avoid being kidnapped and locked in a cage are examples of excessive force. Even when an individual is guilty of harming someone, they still have rights which must be respected. Moreover, putting someone in chains or locking them in a cage because they failed to pay a fine or to meet some court order is excessive force. Even if the state demands such actions, the truly moral person would refuse to obey such orders.
  1. Police have a god complex. While this is not a universal truth, it is quite common. The fact is that no one EVER has any obligation to obey another person and this includes obeying the orders and commands given by police officers. If an officer says, "get on the ground" I have zero obligation to obey. If the officer uses any force whatsoever in response to my refusal to follow his orders, he is guilty of initiating force against me. Refusing to follow orders is not a crime (i.e. it does not constitute the initiation of force against others), therefore refusing to follow orders is an inalienable natural right possessed by all human beings. Unless the person being given the order is actively engaged in harming another person, the ONLY moral thing an officer can do if a person refuses to follow their orders is to use persuasion. Police officers are not gods and no one is obligated to do what they say.
  1. Police are funded through coercive extortion. Even if you could find an officer who never initiated force against others, never used excessive force, and never demanded that people follow his orders, he would still be guilty of knowingly receiving stolen money. Because police are funded through mandatory taxation rather than by being voluntarily hired by individuals or businesses, they are guilty of profiting from a system based on extortion and force initiation. This truth applies not just to sworn officers, but also to the lab techs, assistants, mechanics, and others who may not fall under the first three categories listed here.

The many issues with the criminal justice system go beyond just the actions of police officers, of course. The politicians, bureaucrats, judges, and prosecutors also bear a considerable amount of blame for their immoral and tyrannical actions, but it should be remembered that none of those people would have any power without the armed agents who enforce their edicts and demands. Have you ever seen a politician or judge with a rifle ordering people to do things at gunpoint? Of course not. They rely on the police to do that for them. If the armed men employed by the state refused to enforce immoral laws and refused to initiate force against peaceful people, the tyranny of the state would be rendered entirely ineffectual.

So long as the police continue to initiate force against others, use excessive force, demand obedience, and receive stolen money, they will continue to be agents of oppression rather than a force for good. I don't hate police, but I do hate oppression and I cannot absolve those who perpetuate such a system. Badges don't grant extra rights which means that police officers don't have any more authority—to hurt people, to take their stuff, or to demand obedience—than does any other person on the planet. Any officer who does not acknowledge this fact and live accordingly has made their own decision to abandon morality and to act as an enforcer for a totalitarian state.

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